Civilian agencies seek better data use in 2008 budget

Civilian agencies plan to more efficiently collect and share data with increases in the IT components of their fiscal 2008 budgets. The 2010 Census receives a significant IT increase, as the Commerce Department prepares a dress rehearsal of the decennial population.

Commerce's total discretionary budget for 2008 increases to $6.6 billion, compared with an estimated $6.2 billion in 2007 and $6.4 billion in actual 2006 funding. Appropriations figures for 2007 are estimated because the Senate has yet to approve a continuing resolution for the remainder of the fiscal year. Of Commerce's total, Census will receive $1.23 billion in 2008 compared with $797 million in 2007 and $801 million in 2006.

Under President Bush's proposed budget, the 2010 Census would receive $797 million, $285 million more than in 2007, for the dress rehearsal in 2008, development of handheld computers and opening of regional offices for the start of nationwide activities in 2009.

The budget boosts to $800 million support for Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to improve weather forecasting, including development and acquisition of geostationary and polar-orbiting weather satellites, and research on unmanned aircraft systems to monitor and forecast hurricane tracks and intensity. NOAA would receive $2 million more than last year to deploy additional advanced technology deep-ocean buoy stations and tsunami inundation mapping, modeling and forecast efforts.

The Patent and Trademark Office would have full access to its fees and a $72 million increase over the 2007 budget to pay for programs and to improve patent and trademark processing time and quality.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology's scientific and technical research services would receive $504 million in 2008 compared with the 2007 estimate of $398 million and the same in 2006 actual funding.

The president seeks $1.86 billion for IT at the Veterans Affairs Department compared with $1.07 billion in 2007 and $1.2 billion enacted in 2006. Total discretionary spending would be $38.5 billion for 2008 compared with $33.36 billion for 2007 and $32.31 billion enacted for 2006.

Of the $1.86 billion for IT, VA seeks $70.1 million for its cyber security initiative that involves the development, deployment and maintenance of a set of controls to better secure VA's systems.

The budget request provides for $34.1 million for a new human resources management system, which will produce an electronic employee record and have the capability to report critical management information dramatically quicker than it currently takes using paper-based systems.

The budget requests $446 million for IT infrastructure, $131.9 million for modernization and application development for VA's VistAHealtheVet system, $129.4 million for maintenance of VistA legacy systems and $20 million for the Health Data Repository. The Office of Information and Technology would receive $191 million, including the cyber security program, enterprise license expenses and e-government programs.

VA last year reduced the average length of time to process a veteran's disability claim to 177 days through improving methods and technology. The 2008 budget provides resources to further reduce processing time to 145 days. The president has identified increased coordination between VA and DOD programs and systems as one of his key management priorities. The departments have made progress in sharing electronic data to make eligibility determinations for VA benefits and services for separated service members for VA hospitals and benefits processing centers.

For the Agriculture Department, the president seeks $341 million to protect against threats to the food supply, including the ability to detect, respond to and recover from disease. The budget has funds to begin building a consolidated poultry research and bio-containment facility in Georgia and to support research on food safety and on emerging and exotic diseases.

The budget includes $57 million for USDA activities such as domestic surveillance and diagnostics, emergency preparedness and response, and technical assistance. USDA's total discretionary budget is $20.26 billion compared with $19.56 in 2007 and $21.15 enacted in 2006.

The Treasury Department budget seeks $410 million more in 2008 to reduce the tax gap through research, technology, enforcement and taxpayer service. Tax cheaters underpay their taxes by $290 billion annually, based on 2001 data.

The budget continues investments in technology to increase electronic payments and collections. Treasury's Financial Management Service, which issues 85 percent of federal payments, such as Social Security benefits, tax refunds and veterans' benefits, last year issued 77 percent of 964 civilian payments electronically, up from 72 percent in 2001. Each check converted from paper to electronic format saves 80 cents.

Discretionary budget totals will be $12 billion in 2008 compared with $11.3 billion in 2007 and $11.36 billion in 2006.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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